Amateur boxing back to Belfast, 26 years later
Stockton Springs — Saturday night, June 23, live amateur boxing will return to Belfast for the first time since the 1980s, and the event will feature several fighters who represent Wyman's Boxing Club in Stockton Springs.
The local boxing club, under the ownership of Ken "Skeet" Wyman, will host Saturday's series of matchups, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Belfast Area High School.
Clubs from all over New England will be attending, with 12 bouts scheduled for the evening. Wyman's boxing club will send in fighters of all sizes, including Wyatt Stearns, Dalton McGovern, Nikki Petronio, Phil Kyser, Joseph Bridges, Josh Bickford and Brandon Berry, who will compete in the main event.
Greg Stearns, a former local boxer who assists Wyman at the gym, said this will be the first time a live amateur boxing event has come to Belfast since 1986, harkening back to the days when the sport was alive and well in Belfast, when Stearns and Wyman were both competing as young boxers themselves.
In fact, the ring that Wyman's boxers use as part of their training is the same ring in which Wyman and Stearns learned to box under the guidance of the late Bruce Copson, who formed the Waldo County Boxing Club and trained young local boxers during the 1970s and 80s.
Monday night, the next generation of local boxers were busy preparing for the Saturday night fights, with all the action transforming the top floor of a former chicken barn on Middle Street into a place where young champions are built and the great ones are always admired.
The walls of the gym are plastered with reminders of boxing legends, including a photograph of Muhammad Ali standing over his opponent, Sonny Liston, after knocking him down in Lewiston in 1965.
The youngest of Wyman's boxers is Wyatt Stearns, a nine-year-old from Belfast who presents powerful punches and skilled footwork. Stearns, who is the son of Greg Stearns, has been training at Wyman's for more then a year and is continuing his quest to follow in his father's footsteps.
Bickford, a 20-year-old boxer from Mount Holly, VT said he's been staying with Wyman as he prepares for his matchup Saturday, getting up at 3:30 a.m. each morning to head out with Wyman to work on his lobster boat and ending most days with his training. Bickford met Wyman about eight years ago, when the two attended a Golden Gloves championship match where Bickford was a spectator. They've kept in touch over the years, and have become good friends.
"Skeet [Wyman] set me up with this fight," said Bickford, taking a breather from his workout Monday. "Where I come from, it's more in the woods than this and it's hard to get fights."
Bickford routinely travels from his home in Vermont an hour one-way to a boxing gym in New Hampshire to train, and he has big plans for the summer, too, including a trip to Kansas City, Mo. in August to compete in the Ringside World Championships.
Stearns said Kyser, a recent Belfast Area High School graduate, will be another fight to watch Saturday.
"He's a local guy; he wrestled for Belfast," said Stearns.
The main event will feature 24-year-old Berry, a fighter who travels from the Forks to train at Wyman's almost every other day of the week.
"This will be his last amateur fight before he goes pro," said Stearns of Berry.
Berry, who has been boxing for six years and actively competing for three, said although he's about to step into the next phase of his career, he's not taking anything for granted and is solely focused on competing Saturday.
"Whatever you want out of this, you've got to put into it," said Berry.
Tickets will be sold at the door Saturday night, with admission fees ranging from $10 for students and those serving in the military to $25 for a ringside seat.